Tomorrow marks the first Sunday of Advent, the day when many churches begin what is popularly understood of as a "countdown to Christmas" with candles representing Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Given the focus on the first coming of Christ at Christmas, it might come as a surprise to realize that the original meaning of the Advent season focused more his second coming. It's a season of repentance where we're invited to prepare for Christmas in full acknowledgment that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Because of this, John the Baptist is a recurring figure in the traditional scripture readings for Advent. While we're busy opening the doors of our advent calendars, John is dressed in camel's hair down by the Jordan River preaching about the judgment to come.
And this is good news, chilling as it is. As Fleming Rutledge explains, "It has occurred to me that the image of Jesus as the cosmic Judge who will ultimately come again to put an end to all sin and wickedness forever is not so frightening to the poor and oppressed of the earth as it is to those who have a lot to lose."
Read "John the Baptist Points to the Real Hope of Advent" at Christianity Today. If you're looking for some guided readings to take you through this Advent and beyond, check out Seasons: Enter the Story of Jesus Christ, a free resource from The Village Church.